Serial entrepreneurs are a special breed
Being a serial entrepreneur doesn’t mean jumping from failure to failure, it is a phrase designed to describe a very small segment of entrepreneurs that have succeeded in more than one creation. One such people is Steve McIntosh, who started his first company, World Choice Travel at age 17, growing it to over 250 employees with over $500M in sales, eventually selling to Travelocity.
McIntosh later co-founded BeQuick Software, ad most recently, Fanhub where his is now working to combine CRM, ticketing, project tracking and pipeline management all in one cloud-based platform.
He notes that this special breed of entrepreneurs must understand some core tenets, which we suspect are based on hard lessons he and many others have learned along the way. In his own words below, McIntosh spells out five things that make for a successful serial entrepreneur:
1. Not all ideas are worth pursuing
Recognize that not all ideas are worth pursing. As an entrepreneur, you are naturally looking out for new ideas all the time. It is just part of your nature. Some of them will be really good and there will be temptation to shift your focus. Resist. What you choose not to do is more important than what you choose to do. When the you have found the right new idea, that next big thing, you’ll know it. Resistance will be futile.
2. Execution, execution, execution
Good ideas are only 5% of the equation. The other 95%: execution. Many entrepreneurs have great ideas. Very few have great execution of those ideas. Just what is execution? In a word: follow-up. As an entrepreneur, you provide direction and set expectations. Without follow-up, these have no value. When you follow up, it is not just about asking “did this get done?” It is about asking open-ended questions that give you the pulse of what is actually happening in your business.
For example, “When we did X, how did customers react?” or “What do you think we could have done differently” or “What are the mission critical things that could affect our launch?”. When you meet with an employee or vendor, write down on a task list or notepad what you will follow up on on when you meet next. When we consistently follow up with our employees, customers and vendors, the result is great execution.
3. Expand or start anew?
It is often better to expand your business rather than to start a new one. Serial entrepreneurs love the start-up phase of a new business. How easily they forget the blood, sweat and tears it takes to get a new business going. It is far easier to integrate new lines of business in an adjacent category or to organically grow your existing business into new markets than it is to start from scratch.
4. Nix the exit strategy
Forget about the exit strategy. I am always amazed how every business plan for a new startup includes a section on “exit strategy”. Why the rush? The best businesses run themselves. When you abandon your business just as things get good, you are missing out on the golden years of your creation. This is the time when the business affords you the opportunity to focus on the bigger picture opportunities without the stress and pressure of being in the start-up phase. The true serial entrepreneur is in it for the long haul.
5. Quit wasting time on investor hunting
Forget about finding investors. Almost any idea can be tested with very little capital. Scrap together your prototype. Fake it till you make it. Prove your business model works. Experiment. Iterate. When you invest your time and effort in trying to get investors, you are wasting precious time and energy that could be spent proving your idea. Once you have proven your idea in a controlled test, you’ll find it much easier to get an investor, if you still even need one.